Learn How to Make Shrub Syrup
Are Shrub Drinks Healthy?
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Shrubs. Have you heard of them? Do you know how to make shrub syrup? If you’re not familiar, shrubs are budget-friendly, delicious, fermented vinegar, and fruit-based beverages. Next to kombucha and kefir, shrubs are gaining in popularity. If you want a healthful drink that’s as beautiful to look at as it is good to drink, then shrubs are for you!
The fun thing about shrubs is that they are easily made at home for a fraction of the store price. The best-flavored shrubs start with fruit that’s dead ripe. So don’t toss fruits that are a bit past their prime onto the compost pile. Repurpose them and learn how to make shrub syrup.
History of Shrubs
The word shrub comes from the Arabic sharbah, meaning drink. Drinks made with vinegars date back to ancient times. So, are shrub drinks healthy?
During the long voyage to America, shrubs were included. Why? The vitamin C content from the fruit prevented scurvy and the vinegar, a fermented liquid, was good for the digestive system.
When prohibition was at its height, shrubs became popular substitutes for alcoholic beverages. With the focus today on healthy drinks, shrubs are becoming mainstream.
Simply stated, shrubs are sweetened fresh fruit-flavored vinegars. The acid in vinegar preserves the drink, so shrubs can be kept for months refrigerated.
Fruit: Most fruits work well, the riper, the better. Fruit doesn’t have to be perfect. Remove any bad spots.
• Start with a simple one fruit shrub, then experiment with more fruits, spices, etc.
• Peel, chop, or crush fruit a bit to hasten infusion.
• I’ve made blueberry and strawberry shrubs. Melon, peach, pineapple, citrus, and apple are excellent — you get the picture!
Vinegar: Regardless of the kind you use, the vinegar should have at least 5% acidity.
• White wine vinegar makes for a smooth flavored beautiful shrub.
• Distilled white vinegar gives a clear, sharp flavor.
• Apple cider vinegar creates a mellow flavor.
• Rice vinegar? Yes, that works too.
• How about a splash of balsamic added to any of the above? Especially nice with berry shrubs.
Sugar: I use granulated, but raw, brown sugar, or honey works.
MASTER FRUIT SHRUB SYRUP RECIPE
Recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.
2 heaping cups fruit, peeled, chopped, or crushed a bit if necessary
2 cups vinegar
1 to 2 cups sugar or to taste
• Sterilize glass jar.
• Heat vinegar in pan to a simmer. You’ll see little bubbles around the edges. Don’t boil.
• Pour vinegar over fruit in jar, leaving a bit of space. Put lid on.
• Cool, then place in a cool, dark place or refrigerator. I put mine in the refrigerator. Let infuse at least two days or as long as you want (a month or more is okay) until desired flavor is reached.
• Strain fruit for a sparkling looking shrub syrup, or leave in and purée for a thicker syrup.
• Place in pan, add sugar and bring just to a boil.
• Cool and pour into sterilized container and cap.
• Store in refrigerator up to six months or more.
• If shrub bubbles, gets slimy, etc. toss it. (That rarely happens).
Serve: Mix a few tablespoons syrup into a glass of chilled sparkling or regular water. Taste and add more, if desired.
Other ways to use shrubs: Cocktail mixers, salad dressings, over ice cream.
Shrubs and Switchels: What’s the diff?
Shrubs are basically a fermented drink. Switchels, on the other hand, are a simple, refreshing, hydrating drink made of vinegar, water, and a sweetener. In olden times, that sweetener was often molasses.
Farmers favored switchels since they could be made on the spot and they cooled them down in the heat of summer harvesting.
Now that you know how to make shrub syrup, will you be making some of your own? We would love to hear your experience in the comments below!
Originally published in Countryside March/April 2021 and regularly vetted for accuracy.